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In Libya, dozens of migrants sleep alongside one another in a cramped cell in Tripoli's Tariq al-Sikka detention facility. Photo: UNHCR/Iason Foounten


28 November 2017 – The United Nations is stepping up its work to stop the grave abuses perpetrated against refugees and migrants along the Central Mediterranean routes, including alleged slave trade in Libya, two UN agency chiefs told the Security Council Tuesday.

The meeting was held at UN Headquarters in New York in response to growing international concerns about risks facing migrants and refugees, which were illustrated by recent news reports and videos showing African migrants in Libya allegedly being sold as slaves.

“This is an enormous human tragedy and we can stop it,” said William Lacy Swing, Director General of the International Organization for Migration (IOM), via video link from Geneva, underscoring the need to break the smugglers’ business model.

In such efforts, IOM has helped 13,000 people get out of detention centres in Libya and 8,000 in Niger, he said, noting that there are about 15,000 still in such facilities.

IOM is working with partners, including the Government of Libya, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the African Union, the European Union, and countries of origin, to forge an agreement to implement a programme to empty those detention centres, Mr. Swing said.

Also briefing was the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, who told the Council: “The grave abuses perpetrated against migrants and refugees along the Central Mediterranean routes can no longer be ignored.”

“Compelled to flee, but without legal pathways to safety, refugees are exposed to appalling harm, together with migrants, including torture, rape, sexual exploitation, slavery and other forms of forced labour,” Mr. Grandi said, also via video link from Geneva, adding that these abuses proliferate where governance is weak and transnational criminal networks take root.

“This requires a comprehensive approach encompassing countries of origin, transit, and destination,” he stressed, highlighting the need to strengthen refugee protection and offer solutions along the routes.

UNHCR is stepping up its work – but faces “dramatic” funding gaps, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, he added.

UNHCR is helping the authorities address the needs of displaced Libyans and others affected by conflict. Reception and protection mechanisms are being incrementally strengthened. Plans for a transit centre in Tripoli are progressing positively.

“Too often, measures pursued in relation to the Mediterranean routes have centred on how to control, deter and exclude. This can have a dehumanizing effect – and more importantly, alone, it does not help refugees and migrants avoid exploitative, deeply harmful situations,” Mr. Grandi said, calling for a comprehensive set of political, security, humanitarian, human rights and development investments.

“Your attention is welcome, because your leadership is critical to ensuring that this happens,” he told the Council members.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

UN chief 'horrified' at buying and selling of African migrants in Libya

Djibouti, Eritrea and Counter-Terrorism

Saturday, 25 November 2017 13:19 Written by

Behind the East African nation of Djibouti's strained relations with Eritrea - and Qatar - is the country's counter-terrorism strategy

November 24, 2017

One of the only things the small East African nations of Eritrea and Djibouti agree on is Qatar’s destabilizing role in the region. When Djibouti downgraded its diplomatic relationship with Doha on June 5th, the government knew there would be consequences. But it was unaware they would fall so close to home.

In a surprise move, Qatar announced the withdrawal of its troops from the Eritrea-Djibouti border on June 14. Qatar’s forces had been keeping the peace between Eritrea and Djibouti since 2010, as part of a Doha-led mediation process. The two African nations had a brief border conflict in 2008 – a dispute which dates back to a 1900 colonial agreement between Italy and France which left the precise location of the border ill-defined.

Following Qatar’s withdrawal Eritrean forces quickly took full control of Dumeira Mountain and Dumeira Island. “Djibouti will have to react to this seizure in some way though in what manner Djibouti will respond to this is unclear,” said Joseph Siegle, Director of the Africa Center for Strategic Studies in a June interview.

As painful as the loss of that territory is, Djibouti may still think its decision was worth it. The country’s stance against Qatar is part of a tougher fight against terrorism both within its region and beyond. Djibouti was a founding member of the Islamic Military Alliance to Fight Terrorism and also participated in the Arab Islamic US Summit held in Riyadh in May. This has continued despite the potential loss of Djiboutian territory caused by Qatar – this summer Djibouti also formally joined the US-led Coalition to Defeat ISIS.

Djibouti believes that its struggle against Eritrea is tied to terrorism concerns. It asked the UN’s Somalia and Eritrea Monitoring Group to investigate alleged Eritrean funding for the Somali terrorist group group Al-Shabaab last year. Djibouti has also accused Asmara of funding a group of 200 Djiboutian rebels. “I personally doubt that Qatar is directly funding Al-Shabab in Somalia. There is more evidence to suggest the possibility of Eritrean support for Al-Shabab but, of course, Qatar could be using Eritrea as a proxy,” said a senior Somali intelligence official who agreed to speak off the record during the recent intelligence conference in Khartoum.

Despite the crisis along the border with Eritrea, Djibouti has maintained a force of roughly a thousand soldiers in Somalia as part of the African Union force fighting Al-Shabaab. But Qatar’s sudden withdrawal may have cost Djibouti more than a strip of its territory. Djibouti also worries about the fate of its prisoners of war held by Eritrea – an issue that Qatar had attempted to negotiate.

At the end of the 2008 conflict, Eritrea held nineteen Djiboutian prisoners of war – though some escaped and four were later were released. “[Eritrea] continues to spread blatant lies about the prisoner’s condition and has refused to account for them despite repeated calls by the UN Security Council,” Ambassador Dualeh said.

While Djibouti would be outgunned in any renewed fighting, the country’s changing economic fortunes might strengthen its military and negotiating position in the future. “The tiny new nation has no army, less than one square mile of arable land and no resources except sand, salt and 20,000 camels,” the New York Times wrote in 1977. In the intervening decades Djibouti has become an economic success story – its GDP of Djibouti increased by 6.5% in 2016, in part thanks to the development of its port and transport services.

Djibouti aims to become the “Dubai of Africa” and serve as a regional trading hub. Ethiopia – with a population of one hundred million – is the world’s most populous landlocked country. It depends on Djibouti’s port to reach the sea, and as a result the tiny country handles ninety percent of Ethiopia’s maritime trade. To better meet those needs, Djibouti opened two new harbors this year – and another port is nearing completion.

Djibouti also maintains its diplomatic clout by hosting several foreign military bases. Camp Lemonnier, a former French Foreign Legion outpost, has been America’s only permanent military base in Africa since 2001. Sitting next to Djibouti’s international airport, the US joint-operating base has been an important part of America’s ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan. Djibouti has also welcomed military bases from China and Japan in recent years – and Saudi Arabia is also considering a base. Partly in response, Eritrea is host to a base from the home of the real Dubai: the United Arab Emirates.

War is bad for business, and ultimately Djibouti hopes its dispute with Eritrea will be ameliorated through negotiation. Ambassador Dualeh told Raddington Report that, contrary to media reports, China has not offered to act as a mediator of the dispute now that Qatar has gone.

“We would like to see the UN Security Council urge Eritrea to resolve the border issue peacefully,” Dualeh said, “and to accept to submit the boundary dispute to the International Court of Justice, for a final and binding determination of the boundary based on international law”. No one expects that to happen soon.



Eritrea, Burundi slammed for threatening U.N. human rights experts

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has expressed concern over threats meted out to its special rapporteurs in Eritrea, Burundi and the Philippines.

A statement released on Tuesday (November 21) titled “Attacks / threats by States against UN human rights experts, read in part: ‘We are concerned by continuing efforts by certain States to undermine and denigrate important mechanisms established by the 47 Member States of the Human Rights Council.”

On the specific case of Eritrea, the statement bemoaned verbal attacks on its human rights expert, Ms Sheila Keetharuth – who recently released a report to the effect that the rights situation in Eritrea was not getting any better.

The Ambassador referred to her as a 'naked Empress with no clothes' and accused her of acting like a “Viceroy over Eritrea,” and carrying out a witch-hunt.

“The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Eritrea, Ms Sheila Keetharuth, has also faced considerable hostility in conducting her work, including a personal attack by the Eritrean Ambassador during her interactive dialogue at the Human Rights Council session in June.

“The Ambassador referred to her as a ‘naked Empress with no clothes’ and accused her of acting like a “Viceroy over Eritrea,” and carrying out a witch-hunt.

“Once again, it must be stressed that Ms. Keetharuth has been faithfully carrying out the mandate given to her by the UN Human Rights Council, and she should not be subjected to this type of vitriolic personalized attack by Government officials.”

In the case of Burundi, the U.N. body said it had lodged a complaint with the government of how its ambassdor threatened authors of a recent report presented by a Commission of Inquiry that probed rights issues in the volatile country.

“The High Commissioner has informed the (Burundian) Government that he finds it unacceptable that the members of a Commission mandated by the Human Rights Council are threatened with prosecution for performing the task set for them by the Council.

“This threat by the Government of Burundi constitutes a clear violation of article VI of the 1946 Convention on the Privileges and Immunities of the United Nations, which applies to experts performing missions for the UN.

“He has urged the Government of Burundi to review its policy of refusing to cooperate with the independent International Commission of Inquiry and to cease threatening its members.”

The third country mentioned was the Philippines where President Duterte and his supporters are said to have openly threatened the U.N. special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary and arbitrary execution, Agnes Callamard.


Appeals court rules against mining company Nevsun Resources, clearing way for workers to have claims of human rights violations heard in Canadian court 

Workers and visitors walk within the processing plant at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea, operated by Canadian company Nevsun Resources. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Thursday 23 November 2017 13.52 GMT Last modified on Thursday 23 November 2017 13.56 GMT

A Canadian mining company has lost its bid to block a lawsuit accusing it of human rights abuses against miners in Eritrea after a ruling by an appeals court in British Columbia.

The decision, against Nevsun Resources, paves the way for a groundbreaking legal challenge that links the Vancouver company to allegations of modern slavery.

The case, launched in 2014 by three refugees who alleged they were forced to work at Bisha mine and endured harsh conditions and physical punishment, is one of only a handful in which foreign claimants have been granted access to Canadian courts to pursue firms based in the country over alleged human rights abuses abroad.

Filed in Canada, the lawsuit was directed at Canada’s Nevsun, which owns a controlling interest in the gold, copper and zinc mine through a chain of subsidiary corporations.

The case was catapulted into the spotlight last year when a court in the province of British Columbia ruled that it could be heard in the Canadian legal system.

Nevsun appealed the 2016 ruling, arguing that any lawsuit should be heard in Eritrea. On Tuesday, however, the British Columbia court of appeal dismissed the company’s challenge, noting the risk of corruption and unfairness in the Eritrean legal system.

Joe Fiorante of Camp Fiorante Matthews Mogerman, the lead counsel for the plaintiffs, said: “There will now be a reckoning in a Canadian court of law in which Nevsun will have to answer to the allegations that it was complicit in forced labour and grave human rights abuses at the Bisha mine.

”In affidavits filed with the court, the plaintiffs – all of whom have since left Eritrea – alleged that as conscripts in the country’s national service system, they were forced to work for government-owned construction firms subcontracted to build the mine. They claimed the conditions were inhuman and work was carried out under the constant threat of physical punishment, torture and imprisonment.

A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea

A truck arrives to ferry excavated gold, copper and zinc ore from the main mining pit at the Bisha Mining Share Company in Eritrea. Photograph: Thomas Mukoya/Reuters

Since Nevsun owns 60% of the Bisha Mining Share Company, which owns and operates the mine (the other 40% is owned by the Eritrean government), the plaintiffs claim the Canadian company must have been aware of the reported abuses, but failed to prevent or stop them.

None of the allegations have been proven in court.

In their decision, the British Columbia appeals court judges referenced a 2016 UN inquiry into human rights in Eritrea, which found the government had committed crimes against humanity in a widespread and systematic manner. The report noted that officials in the one-party state had enslaved up to 400,000 people, with many describing how the country’s system of lifelong military service amounts to modern-day slavery.

This system is at the heart of the case against Nevsun, said Fiorante. “Our case alleges that people that were conscripted into that system were forced to work in service of building a Canadian-owned gold mine in Bisha, Eritrea,” he said.

Fiorante added that about 60 people have so far come forward with similar claims of being forced to work at the mine.

Nevsun has denied the allegations contained in the lawsuit. While the company declined to comment on the latest ruling as the matter is before the court, a Nevsun spokesperson referred to a 2015 human rights audit of the Bisha mine, noting that contractual commitments strictly prohibit the use of national service employees by Bisha’s contractors and subcontractors.

Last year the Guardian spoke with several people who alleged they had been forced to work at the mine, earning as little as a dollar a day. The work was carried out amid horrendous conditions and a climate of fear and intimidation, they claimed.

“The mine was like an open prison,” said one former security guard, speaking on condition of anonymity to protect family still in Eritrea. “They can take you and do what they want with you. I was owned by them. We were like objects for the government and for foreign companies to do with us what they wanted.”




Africa, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Horn of Africa

They may have fled from Eritrea, but the refugees in Hitsats camp in northern Ethiopia have not forgotten the plight of their friends and families back home.

These videos, sent from the camp, show their determination to support the residents of Asmara, who have been resisting attempts to take over their school, with the arrest of Hajji Musa Mohammednur, the president of the school’s board.

In taking this stand they join thousands of Eritreans who have shown their opposition to the regime’s attack on the independence of the school in protests around the world, including Washington, London and Stockholm.

Hitsats camp was opened in 2013 by the UN refugee agency, and was designed to hold 20,000 refugees.

Eritreans, Sudanese worse affected by Israel's forced deportation plan


A plan by Israeli authorities to forcibly deport to third countries or jail African migrants will affect predominantly Eritrea and Sudanese migrants in the country.

Israel is looking to close its Holot detention center for African migrants within four months. The center is home to thousands of refugees.

The United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) in a statement last week said it was seriously concerned about the move under which proposals: “Eritreans and Sudanese asylum-seekers and refugees would be compelled to accept relocation to countries in Africa or face imprisonment in Israel.”

Eritreans and Sudanese asylum-seekers and refugees would be compelled to accept relocation to countries in Africa or face imprisonment in Israel.

“In light of the intention to see the departure of infiltrators on a large scale to third countries, we may reconsider the need for the continued existence of the Holot facility, as the infiltrators’ departure could come directly from city centers to the third countries,” Israeli authorities are quoted to have said.

It is believed that for Africa, Rwanda and Uganda are the third countries that Israel plans to send the refugees to. An Israeli High Court in August okayed the emigration policy but tasked the government to ensure that deported migrants will be safe with the third countries.

If successful, it will be the first time that such a move has been executed given that earlier attempts by Italy (Libya) and Australia (Malaysia)with third-party countries were dismissed by local courts with the reason that such deportations were inconsistent with international law.

It is believed that over 40,000 African migrants are residing in Israel by close of 2016. The government insists they are largely economic migrants even though most have applied for refugee status and that they are fleeing conflict and persecution back home.

Eritrea is one of the African countries that produces the largest number of refugees and asylum seekers from south of the Sahara. Most young people flee harsh economic conditions back home and the political situation as well.


German coalition talks fail after FDP walks out

Monday, 20 November 2017 13:26 Written by

Chancellor Merkel announces the failure of talks, as the EU's largest economy gets closer to a possible new election.

Merkel is due to meet the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who could call for new elections [Reuters]
Merkel is due to meet the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who could call for new elections [Reuters]

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has announced that her efforts to form a three-way coalition failed after liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) withdrew from the talks.

"Now we have to deal with the facts. And the fact is that we were unable to finish the coalition talks with success," Merkel said in a press conference on Monday.

"It is a day of deep reflection on how to go forward in Germany. As chancellor, I will do everything to ensure that this country is well managed in the difficult weeks to come."

Merkel's centre-right Christian democratic political alliance (CDU/CSU) secured 33 percent of the general election that took place in September, losing about nine percent of the votes compared to the last election in 2013 and failing to form a single-party government.

The chancellor was holding talks with the FDP, which secured 10.7 percent of the votes in September, and the Greens, which scored 8.4 percent in the vote, to form a coalition government.

FDP: We made compromises

FDP leader Christian Lindner said that his party made various compromise offers during the talks that ended unsuccessfully.

He said that tax policies, European policies, questions of migration and education were among the compromises his party was willing to make.

"We know that politics lives from balancing and with just 11 percent one cannot dictate the course of an entire republic," he told reporters in Berlin.

Immigration levels, climate change and the future of the EU were reportedly among the areas of contention in the failed coalition talks.


Merkel is due to meet the German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who could call for new elections.

She can also form a minority government if she can secure enough support from other parties in individual policies.

"A snap election would lead to rougher and much more polarised political campaign than we had seen in September," Michael Thumann, diplomatic correspondent at DIE ZEIT newspaper, told Al Jazeera from Berlin.

"I think the first thing Merkel will try is to form a minority government. The president will try to work with her on that," Thumann said.

Merkel has been the chancellor of Germany for the last 12 years.

A government vacuum in Europe's largest and strongest economy might affect many issues such as the eurozone’s stability and discussed reforms backed by France.

SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


NOV. 19, 2017

Thousands protested on Saturday in Harare, Zimbabwe, demanding that President Robert Mugabe step down. Credit Ben Curtis/Associated Press

President Robert Mugabe’s own party voted to oust him as its leader on Sunday, a day after thousands of Zimbabweans took to the streets to celebrate his stunning fall from power after a military takeover.

The governing ZANU-PF party, which held emergency talks at its headquarters in the capital, Harare, to consider the fate of the president who had ruled for 37 years, appointed the previously fired vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa, as Mr. Mugabe’s successor.

Under the Constitution, Mr. Mugabe remains president, even if in name only. But if he does not resign by noon Monday, the committee members decided, he would face impeachment by Parliament.

Cheers and dancing broke out in the building after the vote, according to video shared on social media.

Before the committee’s decision, Chris Mutsvangwa, a war veteran who has led the campaign to oust Mr. Mugabe, said as he went into the meeting, “We are going all the way,” according to Reuters.

The central committee also expelled the president’s wife, Grace Mugabe, as head of the ZANU-PF Women’s League. Mrs. Mugabe, widely viewed as his likely successor, has not been seen in public since Wednesday.

On Sunday, she was barred from the party for life, along with several other government officials — including Jonathan Moyo, the minister of higher and tertiary education.

Mr. Mugabe, center, made a public appearance on Friday at a university graduation ceremony despite a military takeover. Credit Ben Curtis/Associated Press

The downfall of the 93-year-old autocratic ruler began with a military takeover on Wednesday. Once respected as a liberation icon who went into exile after fighting colonial rule, Mr. Mugabe became isolated from fellow party officials.

Other veterans of the fight for independence from white-minority rule joined the march on Saturday as Zimbabweans poured into the streets and danced, sang and shouted with joy at the prospect of Mr. Mugabe’s rule ending.

After voting to fire Mr. Mugabe as party leader, the party committee took up the matter of impeachment.

Innocent Gonese, the parliamentary chief whip from the Movement for Democratic Change — Tsvangirai party, told The A.P. that when Parliament resumed this week, the chamber would “definitely” put in motion a process to impeach Mr. Mugabe.

Mr. Mugabe was also meeting on Sunday for a second round of talks with the army commander Constantino Chiwenga, who had placed the president under house arrest. The military, seeking to deflect claims of a coup, said that the action was aimed at rounding up ZANU-PF officials implicated in economic crimes that have ravaged the economy of the southern African nation.


Mr. Mugabe, who has resisted stepping down, was seeking to negotiate a dignified departure, the Zimbabwe state-run broadcaster said.

The youth league of Zimbabwe’s ruling party said Mr. Mugabe should resign and take a rest as an “elder statesman,” while his wife should be expelled from the party “forever,” The Associated Press reported.

Emmerson Mnangagwa in Harare, Zimbabwe, earlier this month when he was still vice president. Credit Aaron Ufumeli/European Pressphoto Agency

The league leader, Yeukai Simbanegavi, praised the military on Sunday for moving against what she described as a group of “criminals” led by Mrs. Mugabe, The A.P. said.

“It is unfortunate that the president allowed her to usurp executive authority from him, thereby destroying both the party and the government,” she said.

A majority of the party’s leaders had recommended expelling Mr. Mugabe — a harsh rebuke of the man who had controlled the organization with an iron grip since the country gained independence in 1980.

In a resolution, party leaders said Mr. Mugabe should be removed for taking the advice of “counterrevolutionaries and agents of neo-imperialism”; for mistreating his vice president, Mr. Mnangagwa, whom Mr. Mugabe abruptly dismissed; and for encouraging “factionalism.”

It urged the “immediate and unconditional reinstatement” of Mr. Mnangagwa, at least until the national elections that are scheduled for next year.

On Sunday, the leaders put force behind their recommendations, ousting Mr. Mugabe and setting up the vice president to succeed him.

But the fired vice president also has critics, who accuse him of being politically ruthless and of plotting to form parallel institutions within the governing party. Mr. Mnangagwa is unpopular in parts of the country: He lost his parliamentary seat at least twice, once after he was accused of firebombing his opponent’s house, according to an editor of The Zimbabwean newspaper.

The political crisis will be on the agenda for a summit meeting in Angola on Tuesday of four countries in the southern African regional bloc: South Africa, which sent envoys to negotiate with Mr. Mugabe on a departure; and Angola, Tanzania and Zambia.


Zimbabwe: “Power is not sexually transmitted”

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 21:08 Written by

Africa, Zimbabwe

This quote – by a leader of the war veterans – sums up their disquiet with Grace Mugabe.

Below is my take on the ‘coup’. But first an image constructed from social media, indicating how the situation developed on Tuesday 14 November.

At the end I have added the statement from ZANU-PF that triggered these events.


Zimbabwe social media

Source: New Statesman

Zimbabwe’s coup pits Grace Mugabe against the old guard

After complaints of a “bedroom coup”, the army launched one of its own.

In the early hours of Wednesday, Zimbabwe’s army went on the air to announce that they had taken control. This had become increasingly clear, as armoured personnel carriers and troops had been seen around Harare on Tuesday and the state broadcaster – ZBC – had been surrounded.

The statement read out by Major General S.B. Moyo couched their actions as an attempt to uphold the existing order.

“We are only targeting criminals around him who are committing crimes that are causing social and economic suffering in the country in order to bring them to justice. As soon as we have accomplished our mission we expect that the situation will return to normalcy.”

But no-one was under any illusion about what was taking place: this was a coup by another name. Nothing like it had been seen in Zimbabwe since Mugabe took power in 1980.

 The key warning had come three years earlier, when the veterans of the war against white rule that put Mugabe in place told the 93-year-old president that they would not accept his second wife as the leader of the country. “Power is not sexually transmitted,” said Jabulani Sibanda, who complained that the ruling party was “plotting a bedroom coup”.

The war veterans, who had stood by President Mugabe during all the crises and challenges he had faced, were not prepared to see Grace and her acolytes to take control.

Since her marriage to the president in 1996, the First Lady of Zimbabwe has become legendary for her ostentatious living. While her countrymen and women live on the breadline, “Gucci Grace”, or “the first shopper” as she is known, indulged her lavish lifestyle. The Mugabe family accumulated a substantial property portfolio both inside Zimbabwe and abroad.

Notorious for her vicious temper, Grace was only recently smuggled out of South Africa after escaping an assault charge for hitting a model.

Zimbabweans complained, but it was when Grace began to seek political office that she crossed a line. She began to be hailed as party rallies as the “Mother of the Nation”. Grace surrounded herself with her acolytes: Generation 40, or G40, faction which included the ZANU PF youth wing. She began pushing her husband to nominate her his successor.

This brought her up against the old guard, who coalesced around the vice president, Emmerson Mnangagwa. Last week Mnangagwa was sacked and he fled to South Africa via Mozambique. It was this that triggered the current events.

By dismissing Mnangagwa, Mugabe had broken with someone who had stood by him since the earliest days of the war against Ian Smith and white rule. Mnangagwa had led the first group of guerrillas to China for military training. After finishing his training, Mnangagwa returned to Tanzania in May 1964, where he and other returning ZANU guerrillas formed the “Crocodile Gang”.

Mnangagwa was captured after blowing up a railway train in Rhodesia, and only narrowly escaped the death sentence. He spent 10 years in jail and was released in 1974 as part of the “unity talks” amnesty. In Mozambique, he was elected special assistant to the president at the 1977 Chimoio congress – which meant he was the military and civilian representative of the party. He also accompanied Mugabe to the Lancaster House negotiations, which paved the way for official recognition of the state of Zimbabwe.

After independence Mnangagwa stood by Mugabe, and was responsible for the suppression of the Ndebele, as well as involved in the rigging of elections. He held a string of ministries, including – importantly – Defence from 2009 to 2013.

It was precisely because he represented such a threat to Grace’s succession that Mugabe removed Mnangagwa from the vice presidency. He was accused of displaying “traits of disloyalty, disrespect, deceitfulness and unreliability”.

The scene was set for the current showdown. On Monday the army chief of staff, General Constantino Chiwenga, warned the president to “stop” purges by the ruling ZANU-PF party. “We must remind those behind the current treacherous shenanigans that when it comes to matters of protecting our revolution, the military will not hesitate to step in,” he said at a press conference.

ZANU PF responded on Tuesday by issuing a statement accusing General Chiwenga of treason. The party said the general’s comments were “calculated to disturb national peace… [and] incite insurrection”. Since treason is a capital offence in Zimbabwe, the general was left with few options: fight or flee the country. He – and most of the military – chose the former.

What lies ahead? It is possible that Mugabe will be allowed to retire and live with some dignity. There are suggestions he might be allowed to leave the country for Singapore or Malaysia, to enjoy the wealth he has salted away overseas for many years. But Mugabe in exile might be unpalatable to the military, since he could act as a magnate for dissidents.

There are reports that Mnangagwa has returned to Zimbabwe and – together with General Chiwenga – will act to shore up his position, while proclaiming that they are acting to “protect the revolution”.

At present South Africa – a critical player during the Rhodesia crisis, and still the major power in the region – is attempting to keep its distance. Speaking on Tuesday ANC secretary-general Gwede Mantashe made it clear that the ANC doesn’t want to get involved in the rift. “ZANU-PF must deal with that issue because Zimbabwe is not our colony… it’s not our province, it’s our neighbour. If things go wrong there, of course, we’ll be concerned because it’ll impact on us, but we have no authority over them, that’s the point we’re making.”

How long Pretoria can keep a cool detachment will depend on whether the factions within Zimbabwe can find an orderly way of resolving the current crisis.



Zimbabwe's President Mugabe 'confined to his house'

Wednesday, 15 November 2017 13:09 Written by

South African leader says he spoke to Zimbabwean counterpart, who 'indicated' he was fine but not allowed to leave home. 

Zuma said Mugabe indicated that he was confined to his home [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]
Zuma said Mugabe indicated that he was confined to his home [Philimon Bulawayo/Reuters]